Cherished music fest in danger of having to seek out new digs

Organizers of a long-running music festival held each year on San Francisco-owned land near Yosemite say they may have to pull up stakes and move next year if they can’t soon finalize a lease with The City.

The Strawberry Music Festival, with concerts featuring acoustic music acts each Memorial and Labor Day weekend, has called Camp Mather its home for 26 years, according to general manager Theresa Gluzinski.

Although a renewed lease was due last November, festival organizers say they’ve been told by Recreation and Park Department officials that an agreement might not be approved until August, and then only if “outstanding issues” — which have not been clarified — can be resolved.

“We’re in a pretty frightening place in terms of the stability of our business,” Gluzinski said. “Our first choice is to stay at Camp Mather … but we can’t wait until August to figure out where we’re going to be next year.”

San Francisco has owned Camp Mather since the 1920s and hosts 6,000 to 7,000 families at its campsites each year, according to Recreation and Park spokeswoman Rose Dennis. The Strawberry Music Festival is the camp’s only major event, and recreation staff are working to keep it there, she said.

Under the prior lease, which allows Strawberry Music to hold festivals at the property through this Labor Day, organizers paid San Francisco $160,000 per year, Gluzinski said. Under the new lease, Strawberry Music would pay $189,200 per year in 2009, and tack on an additional $30,000 per year for five years, according to Dennis.

Festival organizers have already examined several other sites, including other properties in Tuolomne County and nearby Mariposa County.

In addition to being a fiscal loss for San Francisco, if Strawberry Music Festival moved, it would be “devastating” for nearby businesses who rely on summer concerts, according to Nancy Sikes, executive director of the Tuolomne County Visitors Bureau.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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